DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 3C
August 29, 2011
They ate dinner in an outdoor café that overlooked the harbor. For a moment Derek wished he wasn’t working. There were far worse ways to spend an evening than with a beautiful woman in Cuba eating good food while a warm breeze kissed your cheeks and ruffled your hair. But he’d been raised by religious folks with a positively Puritan work ethic, although neither parent approved of him in the military. Neither of them knew he had joined the CIA. It was hard to enjoy vacations when there was work to be done.
From dinner Coro led him to a series of nightclubs where they danced and drank. She encouraged him to drink and he pretended to comply, but most of his drinks were left untouched or unfinished. She was a sexy dancer, a toucher, a seducer. He wasn’t oblivious to her charms.
Closing in on midnight, he said, “Sorry to be such a killjoy, but I want to get back to the hotel and get some sleep. I’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
She gave a sexy little pout, then pressed against him, flinging her arms around his neck. “Sounds wonderful. Except the sleep part.”
Ah, temptation. He untangled her and led her toward a taxi, not a Coco Taxi this time, but a white Volkswagen. Untangling her wasn’t easy. She was about as subtle as a ball-peen hammer to the forehead. To the driver he said, “Take her home, please.”
“I’m going with you.”
“I’ll see you in the morning.” He paid the cab driver and headed down the street, slipping into the next cab to appear before she could get out of the taxi.
He was back in his hotel room within twenty minutes. Studying the room, he nodded. It appeared to have been searched. The papers on the desk seemed to have been moved, his suitcase not in the exactly the same spot. Not a terrible surprise.
Making preparations for a light night mission, Derek put on black jeans and a dark shirt. The Company preached blending in and anonymity, which did not necessarily mean dark clothes at night. However, Derek was also Army Special Forces and he was all too aware that Cuba was enemy territory.
Once he was prepped, he turned the TV on low, hoping to give listeners the notion that he slept with the TV on. Derek made appropriate sounds and motions with the lights off to make it sound as if he had gone to bed, then slipped very carefully out the door.
He took the stairs and on the main floor, avoiding the lobby, he edged out a rear exit. Unlike in the U.S., there was no alarm on the door.
Out on the street, he walked until he was several blocks from the hotel, then caught a cab. He had the cab drop him off about four blocks from the Inglaterra Hotel.
From there he walked, stair-stepping around Old Havana, slipping into the doorways of buildings, stopping at benches, leaning down occasionally to talk to a cab driver before moving on. He did not think he was being followed. Once he was confident in that, he circuitously worked his way back to Central Park and the Inglaterra Hotel. It was easy enough to stay in the shadows of one of the many buildings. It was almost two o’clock.
He became motionless.
It was quiet. The palm trees rustled in the breeze. Horns honked from further away. Occasionally a cab pulled up in front of the hotel and a guest entered the lobby.
He saw nothing.
Nobody had shown up. Perhaps they were waiting for him to make an appearance.
Perhaps his contact couldn’t make it.
Derek didn’t know what happened, but he wasn’t going to wait much longer. Then he saw movement. Across the park, he saw a figure walk out of one of the buildings and cross to a car. Juan Osorio.
Osorio talked to someone in the car. Derek saw two figures in the car, a Russian-made Lada, but couldn’t make out any details. Then Osorio did him a favor and put a cigar in his mouth and used a match to light it. The flame of the match cast just a little bit of light on the passenger in the Lada. A woman with long auburn hair.
Derek recognized her. She had been in El Floridita. He might have seen her again in one of the nightclubs, although he hadn’t been sure.
Now he was. He didn’t know who the woman was – and again, maybe because of the Lada, he got a Russian vibe off her. There were plenty of Russian military and intelligence advisers still in Cuba, despite the USSR having fallen apart last December.
And maybe she was Cuban.
It didn’t matter. Something had gone seriously wrong with the dead drop and the meeting here. He was being set up. But why? Did the Cubans know he was with the CIA? Was Derek’s support network here compromised?
He melted back into the shadows and headed back to the hotel.